What are Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs?

What are Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs?

  • Types of Psalms in the Psalter

    Votes: 31 40.3%
  • Categories of songs

    Votes: 46 59.7%

  • Total voters
    77
Status
Not open for further replies.

au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Thanks, Rev. Greco. I am very interested in the exegetical case that the other two words used in those passages refer to songs outside the book of psalms. As of now I wouldn't be able to defend this if someone asked me.

anyone other than a learned Jew well steeped in the LXX (probably less than 0.00000001% of the population)
The Apostles seem to have known it well, and they were fishermen, a tax collector, etc., weren't they? Plus if they sang the psalms in synagogue and if they were referred to as "hymns" (I don't know), that would also inform their understanding of the word.
 

JP Wallace

Puritan Board Sophomore
The challenge, then, is for the non-EP group to come up with an interpretation of the passages in question without assuming the modern day understanding of the term "hymn." But, instead, showing that the 1st Century Christians understood the term as not being the Psalter.
It seems to me that this is the pressing question that needs to be answered if progress is to be made in these discussions.
It has absolutely nothing to do with the modern day understanding. "Hymn" was one of the best attested words in the Greek speaking world at the time of the New Testament. To virtually every Greek, Roman, or quite frankly, anyone other than a learned Jew well steeped in the LXX (probably less than 0.00000001% of the population) it would mean "ode" or "song" usually with specific reference to Homer, Hesiod, or Pindar. To think otherwise would be like me saying "bacon" and assuming that my entire audience would jump to the conclusion that I meant round slices of ham (as in Canada) instead of strips of bacon.

Actually, my scenario is probably 100x more likely than the LXX hymn argument.
Well this is probably true. But surely it is not as simple as that. For a start words can have common meanings, even more that one, but we should determine their "theological" meaning as best we can from how they were used in Scripture or by those who received Scripture - "what did this mean to the reader". and not by democratic cultural usage. I'm not saying we can actually always do that, but surely it is desirable? Sometimes it may not be the common meaning outside the church.

An example that comes to mind would be the meaning of baptizo (no I don't want that discussion started here and I'm not making any points even in passing) - it had a secular meaning to do with dyeing cloth among others, it can also mean sprinkle etc. My point is not to argue that but to say that surely we all agree that the theological meaning if at all possible should be established mainly from the aforementioned criteria? What did baptise mean to the believer in the 1st century given the biblical use or the usage of those who received it along with, or "over and above" its use in culture.

Secondly, while what you write is true we still have to factor in the fact that there is little or no documentary evidence of any early hymnody. That could just be an accident of history and may not prove anything one way or the other - but it cannot be ignored.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
But if the sum total of the "theological" terminology is simply the presence of those terms in the LXX, the argument has not advanced.

The question begins, in this case, with the claim--which is based not in the original text but upon a translational selection--that the NT refers to LXX usage. But for this to truly be established as a well-attested understanding of the NT passages in the early church, we need the testimony of fathers to that effect. Where is that testimony, to the effect that the Eph./Col. terms refer to distinct forms from the Psalter?

Without that testimony, the LXX usage falls from any presumption to "normative" reckoning, so far as the Eph. and Col. passages are concerned. Indeed, the LXX renderings must themselves be interpreted in light of the contemporary (secular) usage of those terms. As "types" of music, the terms were borrowed by the translators to render Hebrew musical terms. The LXX choices aren't inspired, and the terms themselves haven't (by dint of the translation) taken on the presumed quality of "technical-liturgical" merely because they are used occasionally in worship settings.

In other words, we need to get an assumed or smuggled premise in the argument out in the open, i.e. that the LXX translation is "true in every respect," and therefore normative--a high claim for any translation of Holy Writ. We don't claim it for the Vulgate, nor should we for the KJV (or any other English version), and the same warning holds for the LXX. Arguments based on such usage have their place, an important place; however, they are subject to criticism from cumulative lexical, grammatical, and historical grounds. If we find early attestation to the use of these terms in ecclesiastic-liturgical settings as "technical terms," that is strong evidence in favor of so reading. If that attestation is lacking, the argument is demonstrably presumptuous. It is certainly not conclusive.
 

au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I don't think it is in question that the word for "hymn" was used by Greek-speaking people to mean "a song of praise to a deity" in general, not just the psalms. The question is whether, when Paul told his audience to sing hymns, they would have understood him to mean a hymn to the true God from outside the psalter; and if so, how do we know? What is the basis for this conclusion?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Austin,
1Co 14:26 "What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, ..."

In the context, such appears to be the product of the Spirit's movement, a distinctly New Testament utterance. So far as the specific answer to the question, "Did NT believers sing to God from outside the Psalter," the answer would be, "yes." Furthermore, there are a number of songs by saints in the Bible, recorded, but outside the Psalter. Frankly, it strikes this Christian as unreasonably restrictive to say that (at the very least) those songs in Scripture but outside the Psalter are prohibited in worship.

The last consideration might be, "but these are all manifestly inspired, and no songs afterward are so inspired, thus rendering any post-canonical song illegitimate." However, this argument is not persuasive in the least, to anyone not given a pre-commitment to EP. The pattern of song-creation derived from Spiritual revelation is a part of the Scripture's witness, from the Pentateuch through to Revelation. This is a powerful cumulative argument for maintaining that same practice in a non-inspired form, even as preaching performs a like function, and (with even greater freedom) as prayers do.

Naturally, it would be a grave error to neglect the Psalms, inasmuch as one would be undercutting the supreme basis for singing in worship at that point (one cannot sing his "hymns and spiritual songs," and NOT sing the Psalms). But we don't solve the problem of listless or irreverent singing in worship by constricting our praise-selection to the preset forms of the Psalter. There has been plenty of dead-Psalm-singing through the ages of the church.
 

au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Thank you, Rev. Buchanan.

Austin,
1Co 14:26 "What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, ..."

In the context, such appears to be the product of the Spirit's movement, a distinctly New Testament utterance.
Given the context of miraculous gifts of the Spirit, would you conclude that these believers were inspired to write these hymns, just as the NT prophets were inspired to bring their words elsewhere in the chapter?
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
In light of 1Co 14:26, Correct me if I am mistaken, somewhere along the line I learned that a Hymn wasn't necessarily set to music. A Hymn could also be prose just citing praise.

Such as Calvin's Hymn to Christ.
http://www.puritanboard.com/blogs/puritancovenanter/hymn-praise-Christ-john-calvin-288/

Here is Hymn from Dictionary.com
hymn   
[him] Show IPA
–noun
1.
a song or ode in praise or honor of god, a deity, a nation, etc.
2.
something resembling this, as a speech, essay, or book in praise of someone or something.
–verb (used with object)
3.
to praise or celebrate in a hymn; express in a hymn.
–verb (used without object)
4.
to sing hymns.
From what I understand a Hymn wasn't necessarily something set to music.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Given the context of miraculous gifts of the Spirit, would you conclude that these believers were inspired to write these hymns, just as the NT prophets were inspired to bring their words elsewhere in the chapter?
Yes, I do think this was an extraordinary manifestation of the Spirit, in line with prophesies and other ecstatic utterance. But as I pointed out, the conclusion doesn't follow that in the afterward "ordinary means" period, that what we perform today is unconnected with the "extraordinary" period. We preach, based on the Scriptures given, we don't simply read the inspired Scripture. But before the Scripture was completed, there was prophecy that filled in for the incomplete revelation.

The argument for EP essentially does not allow for "interpretation" or singing the theology that we confess. In its strictest form, it barely allows for any adjustment to the form of the words themselves in the least. Nor is it permissible to sing other Scripture.

As with other prophecy, OT or NT, many such utterances are not preserved for our present day use. The question that obtains is this: are we warranted to follow the examples of the fact of the creation of new songs, based on the great works of God in redemption, using the inspired material we do have; or, are we limited to the precise expressions of praise (and that in the one collection, within the collection).
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
The argument for EP essentially does not allow for "interpretation" or singing the theology that we confess. In its strictest form, it barely allows for any adjustment to the form of the words themselves in the least. Nor is it permissible to sing other Scripture.
I am not sure I am understanding this point Rev. Buchanan. We have a Psalm explanation and exegesis every service. Then we also sing the Psalm.
 

au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Yes, I do think this was an extraordinary manifestation of the Spirit, in line with prophesies and other ecstatic utterance. But as I pointed out, the conclusion doesn't follow that in the afterward "ordinary means" period, that what we perform today is unconnected with the "extraordinary" period. We preach, based on the Scriptures given, we don't simply read the inspired Scripture. But before the Scripture was completed, there was prophecy that filled in for the incomplete revelation.
Doesn't the existence of preaching and teaching prior to the cessation of prophecy (in both Testaments) pose difficulties for this argument? If preaching is not an uninspired replacement of prophecy (because preaching already existed), how can preaching be similar to uninspired singing as a replacement of inspired singing? Come to think of it, the continuing command to sing psalms also poses a problem for this interpretation, because inspired song material can still be sung even while new Scripture cannot be written or spoken.

---------- Post added at 02:23 PM ---------- Previous post was at 02:16 PM ----------

Other than needing answers to those questions I did find your post very helpful, though, so thank you.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
I like Calvin on Prophecy....

Calvin on 1 Cor 14:3
He that prophesieth, speaketh unto men “Prophecy,” says he, “is profitable to all, while a foreign language is a treasure hid in the earth. What great folly, then, it is to spend all one’s time in what is useless, and, on the other hand, to neglect what appears to be most useful!” To speak to edification, is to speak what contains doctrine fitted to edify. For I understand this term to mean doctrine, by which we are trained to piety, to faith, to the worship and fear of God, and the duties of holiness and righteousness. As, however, we have for the most part need of goads, while others are pressed down by afflictions, or labor under weakness, he adds to doctrine, exhortation and consolation It appears from this passage, and from what goes before, that prophecy does not mean the gift of foretelling future events: but as I have said this once before, I do not repeat it.
I actually see a connection between prophesying and what Paul experienced in being asked to share a word in the temple in Acts.

(Act 13:15) And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.

(Act 13:16) Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.
Maybe I am reading too much into this but...
It also seems to follow the order of the Exercise which the Scots performed.
The Exercise.

(1Co 14:29) Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
 
Last edited:

seajayrice

Puritan Board Sophomore
But if the sum total of the "theological" terminology is simply the presence of those terms in the LXX, the argument has not advanced.

The question begins, in this case, with the claim--which is based not in the original text but upon a translational selection--that the NT refers to LXX usage. But for this to truly be established as a well-attested understanding of the NT passages in the early church, we need the testimony of fathers to that effect. Where is that testimony, to the effect that the Eph./Col. terms refer to distinct forms from the Psalter?

Without that testimony, the LXX usage falls from any presumption to "normative" reckoning, so far as the Eph. and Col. passages are concerned. Indeed, the LXX renderings must themselves be interpreted in light of the contemporary (secular) usage of those terms. As "types" of music, the terms were borrowed by the translators to render Hebrew musical terms. The LXX choices aren't inspired, and the terms themselves haven't (by dint of the translation) taken on the presumed quality of "technical-liturgical" merely because they are used occasionally in worship settings.

In other words, we need to get an assumed or smuggled premise in the argument out in the open, i.e. that the LXX translation is "true in every respect," and therefore normative--a high claim for any translation of Holy Writ. We don't claim it for the Vulgate, nor should we for the KJV (or any other English version), and the same warning holds for the LXX. Arguments based on such usage have their place, an important place; however, they are subject to criticism from cumulative lexical, grammatical, and historical grounds. If we find early attestation to the use of these terms in ecclesiastic-liturgical settings as "technical terms," that is strong evidence in favor of so reading. If that attestation is lacking, the argument is demonstrably presumptuous. It is certainly not conclusive.
Clink, Clank, Clunk - Non-EP All American! :lol:
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I don't quite follow. If a hymn or a spiritual song refers to something other than a psalm (of a different category than psalm), then it does in fact warrant the use of non-inspired songs in worship (that is, unless, some other inspired song book exists outside the psalter which is titled "Hymns and Spiritual Songs"). I don't believe that is what Paul is referring to here. I believe that this is in reference to the psalter, but if it isn't (which has yet to be shown by proper exegesis) then a case can be made for the use of uninspired hymns/songs in worship.
The EP position is concerned with congregational singing. It is fully acknowledged that individuals in the early church might be inspired to sing a "psalm" of their own making, 1 Corinthians 14.

No case can be made for the use of uninspired songs in worship on the basis of the RPW. There is no precept or approved example to that effect. Even allowing the phenomenon of 1 Corinthians 14, the fact remains that (1) "psalmody" belongs to the history of salvation and cannot be reproduced, and (2) no person without an extraordinary spiritual gift has either the authority or ability to create new songs.
 

MLCOPE2

Puritan Board Junior
I don't quite follow. If a hymn or a spiritual song refers to something other than a psalm (of a different category than psalm), then it does in fact warrant the use of non-inspired songs in worship (that is, unless, some other inspired song book exists outside the psalter which is titled "Hymns and Spiritual Songs"). I don't believe that is what Paul is referring to here. I believe that this is in reference to the psalter, but if it isn't (which has yet to be shown by proper exegesis) then a case can be made for the use of uninspired hymns/songs in worship.
The EP position is concerned with congregational singing. It is fully acknowledged that individuals in the early church might be inspired to sing a "psalm" of their own making, 1 Corinthians 14.

No case can be made for the use of uninspired songs in worship on the basis of the RPW. There is no precept or approved example to that effect. Even allowing the phenomenon of 1 Corinthians 14, the fact remains that (1) "psalmody" belongs to the history of salvation and cannot be reproduced, and (2) no person without an extraordinary spiritual gift has either the authority or ability to create new songs.
Thank you Reverend.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Doesn't the existence of preaching and teaching prior to the cessation of prophecy (in both Testaments) pose difficulties for this argument? If preaching is not an uninspired replacement of prophecy (because preaching already existed), how can preaching be similar to uninspired singing as a replacement of inspired singing? Come to think of it, the continuing command to sing psalms also poses a problem for this interpretation, because inspired song material can still be sung even while new Scripture cannot be written or spoken.
Austin,
In a word, no, there's no difficulty at all. There is no reason to object to the side-by-side presence of both extraordinary means and ordinary. I don't think I suggested that the later "replaces" the former. It merely assumes its normative role, once a period of extraordinary revelation has ceased.

As for the inspired song, the text tells us that those were primarily personal utterances, one man's contribution to the worship. If anything they sang was to be preserved, it would have had to make it into the Bible. If others learned it and sang it for a while, and then it disappeared (in that form), that's conjecture (perhaps yes, perhaps no), still it makes no difference to my point. That time is over. What we do now has to come from the inspired materials that have been preserved for us. WE aren't recreating "inspired song" each time we sing, anymore than we are recreating sacred text when it is read. But we are fashioning that text when we preach it; and if we believe in singing what the Bible teaches, then we fashion that matter for our voices.

And from what I'm reading in your response, it seems that what is expected is a certain "neatness" to the parallels. But this is manifestly asking too much. Besides, what "inspired song material" can we still sing that isn't inscripturated? We can presume that if it was meant to be saved for us, then it was, someplace in the NT, perhaps as poetry, but more likely as prose. But we still are left with the testimony TO the fact of the hymn.

But overall, I don't think you understood my point, or else I didn't make it clear. What do we DO with the inspired materials we now have? 1) We preach words, sentences, and ideas that come from revelation; we even preach material that is (or was) sung. We talk at length on epigrammatic sayings, delivered as pithy proverbs, short and sweet. In other words, we digest the sacred text and re-present it in a new form. We do not simply read it, or in some other manner give it out "as is." 2) We often pray the content of Scripture. And 3) We sing it. We can do that with the text "as is," when clearly (and usually without controversy) some texts were delivered with this use in mind, for God's people to sing them. We join in a common expression of our faith this way, with saints in all ages. We will all know Psalms in heaven, as we sing together. But, I am not persuaded that there is nothing else in the Bible for us to sing, either texts or theology.


Randy,
I can only tell you I've seen Psalter selections rejected by an EP because they weren't "faithful enough" to the literal translation. In other words, depending on how strict someone wants to be, the ONLY singable material is the inspired text. For some, not the slightest paraphrase, not the slightest recapitulation, or rewording of a phrase for clarity. Even a "natural repeat" for the sake of our metrical form of song (which is native to English-speakers, our standard song-form) is anathema to some. I have heard the old CRC Psalter that we use absolutely execrated because some of its renderings are "not up to someone's snuff."

So, if your folks are not that retentive, be glad. Now, I doubt that too many RPCers are going to be negative on their own song book. And, I'm not talking about a bit of pre-singing explanation. But expansions, contractions, paraphrases of the text, in the songs themselves--some people will never have them without objection. There's pure EP, and then there's Not Pure Enough for Me EP. Show me someone who only chants out of his Bible, and I will show you the man who considers everyone else who "thinks he's EP" to be cheaters. These people exist.



And I think I'm done. I don't like to get contentious on this topic. I don't like disagreeing publicly with Rev. Winzer (who is actually far better read than I). I don't like this sad division in the church. If I didn't think it was just as much a binding of the conscience to forbid what I believe is enjoined (when demonstrably meritorious), as to force someone to sing something against his conviction, I would give up everything but the Psalter tomorrow--in order to bring about real unity.
 
Last edited:

sdesocio

Puritan Board Freshman
I think one also needs to ask how does Paul use this terminology elsewhere in his writing. The answer to this question was one of the main reasons I move from one camp to the other.
 

CalvinandHodges

Puritan Board Junior
Pastor Greco:

I find it difficult to follow your line of reasoning here. Are you suggesting that we interpret the Bible according to the common understanding of 1st Century Greeks? How, then, are you reading WCF 1:9? If we applied such a hermeneutic that you are suggesting, then we can come up with all sorts of interpretations of the Scriptures: Theistic Evolution as taught by Aristotle and Plato - two popular philosophies in the 1st Century. We could look at the Scriptures through Stoicism, Epicurianism, and pure Rationalism as well. It does not seem likely to me that your use of hermeneutical principles here is upheld by the Reformed.

Blessings,

Rob

The challenge, then, is for the non-EP group to come up with an interpretation of the passages in question without assuming the modern day understanding of the term "hymn." But, instead, showing that the 1st Century Christians understood the term as not being the Psalter.
It seems to me that this is the pressing question that needs to be answered if progress is to be made in these discussions.
It has absolutely nothing to do with the modern day understanding. "Hymn" was one of the best attested words in the Greek speaking world at the time of the New Testament. To virtually every Greek, Roman, or quite frankly, anyone other than a learned Jew well steeped in the LXX (probably less than 0.00000001% of the population) it would mean "ode" or "song" usually with specific reference to Homer, Hesiod, or Pindar. To think otherwise would be like me saying "bacon" and assuming that my entire audience would jump to the conclusion that I meant round slices of ham (as in Canada) instead of strips of bacon.

Actually, my scenario is probably 100x more likely than the LXX hymn argument.
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
Pastor Greco:

I find it difficult to follow your line of reasoning here. Are you suggesting that we interpret the Bible according to the common understanding of 1st Century Greeks? How, then, are you reading WCF 1:9? If we applied such a hermeneutic that you are suggesting, then we can come up with all sorts of interpretations of the Scriptures: Theistic Evolution as taught by Aristotle and Plato - two popular philosophies in the 1st Century. We could look at the Scriptures through Stoicism, Epicurianism, and pure Rationalism as well. It does not seem likely to me that your use of hermeneutical principles here is upheld by the Reformed.

Blessings,

Rob

The challenge, then, is for the non-EP group to come up with an interpretation of the passages in question without assuming the modern day understanding of the term "hymn." But, instead, showing that the 1st Century Christians understood the term as not being the Psalter.
It seems to me that this is the pressing question that needs to be answered if progress is to be made in these discussions.
It has absolutely nothing to do with the modern day understanding. "Hymn" was one of the best attested words in the Greek speaking world at the time of the New Testament. To virtually every Greek, Roman, or quite frankly, anyone other than a learned Jew well steeped in the LXX (probably less than 0.00000001% of the population) it would mean "ode" or "song" usually with specific reference to Homer, Hesiod, or Pindar. To think otherwise would be like me saying "bacon" and assuming that my entire audience would jump to the conclusion that I meant round slices of ham (as in Canada) instead of strips of bacon.

Actually, my scenario is probably 100x more likely than the LXX hymn argument.
Robert,

You have missed the main thrust of my point. I am not suggesting that we look at the text based on different philosophicalor theological underpinnings. I am suggesting that when we use words, those words have a meaning in context. You seem to think that relatively new Greek speaking and culturally Greek converts would hear the word "hymn" and immediately associate it with the uninspired superscriptions of a translation of the OT. I suggest that the hearer would hear the word in the way it had been used for millennia in Greece, known by every boy and girl.

My principle is exactly the historical-grammatical method. Virtually every commentary and Puritan does the same. You can hardly read a Puritan commentary without a reference to Classical sources on Greek words.

It would seem to me that clinging to an uninspired later addition commentary (which is what a superscription is) to an uninspired translation to make a requirement from Go's word contrary to common linguistic sense is the dangerous hermeneutic.
 

CalvinandHodges

Puritan Board Junior
Pastor Greco:

Thanks for your clarification. I think that you would agree with me that words do have meaning, and, sometimes, these words do convey theological and philosophical concepts. The problem that is itching me is the idea that it appears that there is an emphasis on your part to overestimate the historical-grammatical over the Theological. Maybe I am doing the opposite - overemphasizing the Theological over the historical-grammatical. Be that as it may, we have, in Ephesians and Colossians, Paul a Jew writing to a Greek speaking Church, and he is writing under the inspiration of the Spirit of God. I will grant to you that the Greeks may be understanding the word "hymns" in the fashion that you are implying.

However, it seems to me that the careful way in which Paul is introducing this word - in the immediate context as well as the whole context of Scripture - indicates that the Apostle is using the word in a different sense than the common Greek understanding. Consider, that Paul does not use the term "hymn" anywhere else in Scripture alone. The term "ode" is used also in the Book of Revelation, but the restrictive use of the term indicates the carefulness that John is making of it. The term "Psalm" is used alone because the philosophical and theological concepts that the word implies are consistent with Scripture.

When you look at the Puritan commentators on these passages, then you will find a universal agreement that Paul is writing of the Psalter exclusively. This is also the suggestion of the Westminster Directory of Public Worship. It was also the practice of Presbyterians up until the mid to late 19th Century. I believe that all of these men were using the historical-grammatical-Theological method in interpreting the Scriptures. So, I agree with you that the Grammatical method does look at how the words are used in the culture of the time, but this is also tempered by the context of the word in the Scriptures as well as comparing Scripture with Scripture as well. The full use of the historical-grammatical-Theological interpretation of Scripture is what the Puritans and Presbyterians were doing.

You wrote:

It would seem to me that clinging to an uninspired later addition commentary (which is what a superscription is) to an uninspired translation to make a requirement from Go's word contrary to common linguistic sense is the dangerous hermeneutic.
I am not entirely sure what you mean by an "uninspired later addition commentary (which is what a superscription is)." I would agree with you that the LXX is in uninspired translation (though you would have argument against that by the Early Church), but are you suggesting that we throw out the LXX entirely as a commentary on how the Greek words in Eph 5 and Col 3 are used? That we should pay more attention to Homer, Aeschylus, and Aristophenes than a Greek translation of the Old Testament - a translation that the Greek speaking people may have actually been using?

What I would like to see is a careful exegesis of these passages proving that the term "hymn" should be understood as something other than the Book of Psalms. What you have proven is that one aspect of the interpretation of Scripture - the "Historical" sense - may side with your position.

If I have offended in anything I have written above, then please forgive me as I meant no offense, and I believe that you are a better man than me.

In Jesus,

Rob

Pastor Greco:

I find it difficult to follow your line of reasoning here. Are you suggesting that we interpret the Bible according to the common understanding of 1st Century Greeks? How, then, are you reading WCF 1:9? If we applied such a hermeneutic that you are suggesting, then we can come up with all sorts of interpretations of the Scriptures: Theistic Evolution as taught by Aristotle and Plato - two popular philosophies in the 1st Century. We could look at the Scriptures through Stoicism, Epicurianism, and pure Rationalism as well. It does not seem likely to me that your use of hermeneutical principles here is upheld by the Reformed.

Blessings,

Rob

The challenge, then, is for the non-EP group to come up with an interpretation of the passages in question without assuming the modern day understanding of the term "hymn." But, instead, showing that the 1st Century Christians understood the term as not being the Psalter.
It seems to me that this is the pressing question that needs to be answered if progress is to be made in these discussions.
It has absolutely nothing to do with the modern day understanding. "Hymn" was one of the best attested words in the Greek speaking world at the time of the New Testament. To virtually every Greek, Roman, or quite frankly, anyone other than a learned Jew well steeped in the LXX (probably less than 0.00000001% of the population) it would mean "ode" or "song" usually with specific reference to Homer, Hesiod, or Pindar. To think otherwise would be like me saying "bacon" and assuming that my entire audience would jump to the conclusion that I meant round slices of ham (as in Canada) instead of strips of bacon.

Actually, my scenario is probably 100x more likely than the LXX hymn argument.
Robert,

You have missed the main thrust of my point. I am not suggesting that we look at the text based on different philosophicalor theological underpinnings. I am suggesting that when we use words, those words have a meaning in context. You seem to think that relatively new Greek speaking and culturally Greek converts would hear the word "hymn" and immediately associate it with the uninspired superscriptions of a translation of the OT. I suggest that the hearer would hear the word in the way it had been used for millennia in Greece, known by every boy and girl.

My principle is exactly the historical-grammatical method. Virtually every commentary and Puritan does the same. You can hardly read a Puritan commentary without a reference to Classical sources on Greek words.

It would seem to me that clinging to an uninspired later addition commentary (which is what a superscription is) to an uninspired translation to make a requirement from Go's word contrary to common linguistic sense is the dangerous hermeneutic.
 
Last edited:

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Given the context of miraculous gifts of the Spirit, would you conclude that these believers were inspired to write these hymns, just as the NT prophets were inspired to bring their words elsewhere in the chapter?
Yes, I do think this was an extraordinary manifestation of the Spirit, in line with prophesies and other ecstatic utterance. But as I pointed out, the conclusion doesn't follow that in the afterward "ordinary means" period, that what we perform today is unconnected with the "extraordinary" period. We preach, based on the Scriptures given, we don't simply read the inspired Scripture. But before the Scripture was completed, there was prophecy that filled in for the incomplete revelation.

The argument for EP essentially does not allow for "interpretation" or singing the theology that we confess. In its strictest form, it barely allows for any adjustment to the form of the words themselves in the least. Nor is it permissible to sing other Scripture.

As with other prophecy, OT or NT, many such utterances are not preserved for our present day use. The question that obtains is this: are we warranted to follow the examples of the fact of the creation of new songs, based on the great works of God in redemption, using the inspired material we do have; or, are we limited to the precise expressions of praise (and that in the one collection, within the collection).
Good argumentation, Bruce.

But, in the case of preaching, we don't have a ready made book of inspired, infallible and inerrant God-given sermons for us to preach from, that are suitable for our congregations.

In the case of praying, we don't have a ready made book of inspired, infallible and inerrant God-given prayers for us to pray with, that are suitable for our congregations or individuals.

In the case of singing we have the inspired, infallible and inerrant Book of psalms for us to sing from which are most suitable for the greatly expanded Israel of God.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Another issue I have with the argument that views the LXX as setting the interpretive standard for Pauline usage, is that it contains 151 Psalms, including the "supernumerary" at the end.

In other words, when it comes to the superscriptions, I am asked to commit to them as though they definitively speak to the meaning of the Eph/Col passages. But where "the original church hymnal" contains an uninspired composition, I am assured that the LXX carries no weight in whether that song should be sung.

I cannot commit to the first as though the question was settled, while at the same time with regard to the second I have serious reservations about supplemental inclusion elsewhere in the same body of text. The presence of "Psalm" 151 vitiates my confidence in the perspicacity of the translators, and the conclusion that they created technical terms that become the assured template for knowing Paul's meaning in acknowledged Scripture. I am not persuaded that we are warranted in assuming Paul is specifically reflecting LXX usage in his use of terms. The ordinary meaning of the language must be taken into account, because the LXX itself is borrowing terms from local custom to translate a foreign text.
 
Last edited:

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Quote from Bruce
Randy,
I can only tell you I've seen Psalter selections rejected by an EP because they weren't "faithful enough" to the literal translation. In other words, depending on how strict someone wants to be, the ONLY singable material is the inspired text. For some, not the slightest paraphrase, not the slightest recapitulation, or rewording of a phrase for clarity. Even a "natural repeat" for the sake of our metrical form of song (which is native to English-speakers, our standard song-form) is anathema to some. I have heard the old CRC Psalter that we use absolutely execrated because some of its renderings are "not up to someone's snuff."

So, if your folks are not that retentive, be glad. Now, I doubt that too many RPCers are going to be negative on their own song book. And, I'm not talking about a bit of pre-singing explanation. But expansions, contractions, paraphrases of the text, in the songs themselves--some people will never have them without objection. There's pure EP, and then there's Not Pure Enough for Me EP. Show me someone who only chants out of his Bible, and I will show you the man who considers everyone else who "thinks he's EP" to be cheaters. These people exist.
But this isn't an argument for or against EP. It's just like those who are very definite about what version of the Bible they'll use or not use.

---------- Post added at 08:31 PM ---------- Previous post was at 08:06 PM ----------

Quote from Nathan
Certainly. Just as we can be taught and admonished with the words of Augustine, Calvin, Spurgeon, Schaeffer, etc
That's where we differ. If Spurgeon wrote a song that can be Biblically proven to be in error, is it ok for the elders to allow the congregation to sing that song? Should the elders allow the congregation to be taught and admonished/corrected while they take man-composed hymns/music in their hearts during corporate worship and sing those to the Lord?
This illustrates one of the problems with abandoning EP, or at least abandoning inspired materials of praise i.e. the Psalms, other Scripture songs and paraphrases of Scripture prose. The congregation and denomination are left to the whim or good sense of their ministers to avoid singing pap, drivel, bathos, or downright error.

A bulwark and clear line in the sand is abandoned and what is put in its place?

Quote from Gail
And If you claim Semper Reformanda, why not allow inspired hymns and spiritual songs?
Semper Reformanda doesn't mean continually tinkering with or undoing what has already been reformed. Thus it has to be shown in this case that EP isn't in line with Scripture or is less in line than something else and thus needs to be reformed.

We don't just keep making changes in the name of semper reformanda.
 
Last edited:

MLCOPE2

Puritan Board Junior
I cannot commit to the first as though the question was settled, while at the same time with regard to the second I have serious reservations about supplemental inclusion elsewhere in the same body of text
I presume you haven't cut Jude 9 out of your bible? Evidence clearly points to its origin being the apocryphal work "the assumption of moses". While no one would dare claim its inspiration, no one would deny its truthfulness since it is in the canon of scripture. The same argument would follow in regards to the psalter. No, there are not 151 psalms however that does not deny that Paul was referring to them in a way which most would know and understand them (i.e. the LXX).
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
There doesn't seem to be much evidence that the Apostle was talking about anything other than "the Psalms of David" in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16.

Much more suggestive for the composition and singing of hymns are the extra-Psalmodic Scripture songs and apparent traces of non-Psalmodic songs in the Epistles.

But these would hardly justify the place that hymn composition and singing has been given in the New Testament Israel of God to the exclusion of the the Psalms of David, which Psalms have been transfigured for God's people by the First Advent of Christ.

Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, (Luke 24:44-45, ESV).

That would merit another thread.
 

Bygracealone

Puritan Board Sophomore
Brothers,

The case for EP doesn't begin or end with the Eph. or Col. passages. In fact, it could be argued (even as prof. John Murray has) that these passages aren't even relevant to the question of what we're to sing in corporate worship.

But if the argument is going to continue here, a couple points are worth considering.

As we look to the NT, we need to keep something in mind. The OT commands God’s people to sing the inspired Psalms exclusively. When we turn to the NT, we need to keep our eyes open to see if there is anything that would cause us to believe that the pattern set forth in the OT has been overturned or replaced. There is no solid proof that anything but the Psalms were sung in the worship of the NT Church.

Though the following passages don't pertain to corporate worship, they do provide us with a sense as to what God's people were used to singing. For example, in James 5:13 we read, “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.” There’s no doubt that James had the inspired Psalms in mind here.

There are various examples in the Book of Acts that show us the disciples sang the Psalms. Consider just one example from Acts 4. This comes just after hearing the news that Peter and John had been arrested and released.

Acts 4:24-26 24 So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: "Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25 "who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: 'Why did the nations rage, And the people plot vain things? 26 The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against the LORD and against His Christ.'

In this passage, we’re given a snapshot of the kinds of songs that the disciples sung. In this single passage, we're told that they sang from Psalm 146 and Psalm 2. They sang these songs because they were the songs they were used to singing in worship.

WRT the Eph and Col passages, we should note that the verses speak of “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” Well, the word “spiritual” means inspired by the Holy Spirit. Dr. B.B. Warfield confirmed this with the following statement.

Of the 25 instances in which the word [spiritual] occurs in the NT, in no single case does it sink even as low in its reference as the human spirit; and in 24 of them it is derived from “spirit”, the Holy Ghost. In this sense of belonging to, or determined by, the Holy Spirit, the NT usage is uniform. … The appropriate translation for it in each case is “Spirit-given,” or “Spirit-led”, or “Spirit-determined”.

"Spiritual," then, refers to those songs that were written by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, man-made/uninspired hymns/songs do not qualify.

The other thing to point out is that the Ephesians passage commands us to be filled with the Spirit and the passage from Colossians commands us to let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly. Both of these passages are telling God’s people to be filled with God’s Word. The Ephesians passage tells us to be filled with the Spirit and it then tells us how to do it. When we sing to one another from the Psalter in worship we are being filled with the Spirit. According to the passage from Colossians, having the Word of Christ dwell in us richly is also done by singing to one another from the Psalter. You see, the Word of Christ is the Word of God and the Psalter is part of God’s Word.

Another thing to note as we consider what the NT has to teach us with regard to song in worship is what is found in Matt. 26:30. In that verse, we have the only explicit record in Scripture of Jesus singing. After introducing and partaking of the first Lord’s Supper, we read that “when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”

There is no question what is meant by the term “hymn” there. Scholars agree that this word “hymn” refers to what is called the Great Hallel. The Great Hallel was what was traditionally sung during the Passover back then. It refers to Psalms 113-118 from the Psalter. So, the only record we have of Jesus singing is of Him singing the Psalms.
 

MLCOPE2

Puritan Board Junior
The case for EP doesn't begin or end with the Eph. or Col. passages. In fact, it could be argued (even as prof. John Murray has) that these passages aren't even relevant to the question of what we're to sing in corporate worship.
Thank you Pastor for your post. The purpose of this thread is not for EP to live or die upon the Eph/Col passages but to determine the meaning of the terms "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" in them. It seems that a main point of contention between EPers and nonEPers is whether or not Paul is referring to solely the psalter or "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" as various types of music that can, or must, be used in the worship of the church.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I cannot commit to the first as though the question was settled, while at the same time with regard to the second I have serious reservations about supplemental inclusion elsewhere in the same body of text
I presume you haven't cut Jude 9 out of your bible? Evidence clearly points to its origin being the apocryphal work "the assumption of moses". While no one would dare claim its inspiration, no one would deny its truthfulness since it is in the canon of scripture. The same argument would follow in regards to the psalter. No, there are not 151 psalms however that does not deny that Paul was referring to them in a way which most would know and understand them (i.e. the LXX).
Huh?

I'm going to go out on a limb here, and say that you haven't the foggiest clue as to what my point was.

Here is the FINAL Psalm in the Greek LXX:
Psa 151:1 Οὗτος ὁ ψαλμὸς ἰδιόγραφος εἰς Δαυιδ καὶ ἔξωθεν τοῦ ἀριθμοῦ· ὅτε ἐμονομάχησεν τῷ Γολιαδ. Μικρὸς ἤμην ἐν τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς μου καὶ νεώτερος ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ τοῦ πατρός μου· ἐποίμαινον τὰ πρόβατα τοῦ πατρός μου.
Psa 151:2 αἱ χεῖρές μου ἐποίησαν ὄργανον, οἱ δάκτυλοί μου ἥρμοσαν ψαλτήριον.
Psa 151:3 καὶ τίς ἀναγγελεῖ τῷ κυρίῳ μου; αὐτὸς κύριος, αὐτὸς εἰσακούει.
Psa 151:4 αὐτὸς ἐξαπέστειλεν τὸν ἄγγελον αὐτοῦ καὶ ἦρέν με ἐκ τῶν προβάτων τοῦ πατρός μου καὶ ἔχρισέν με ἐν τῷ ἐλαίῳ τῆς χρίσεως αὐτοῦ.
Psa 151:5 οἱ ἀδελφοί μου καλοὶ καὶ μεγάλοι, καὶ οὐκ εὐδόκησεν ἐν αὐτοῖς κύριος.
Psa 151:6 ἐξῆλθον εἰς συνάντησιν τῷ ἀλλοφύλῳ, καὶ ἐπικατηράσατό με ἐν τοῖς εἰδώλοις αὐτοῦ·
Psa 151:7 ἐγὼ δὲ σπασάμενος τὴν παρ᾿ αὐτοῦ μάχαιραν ἀπεκεφάλισα αὐτὸν καὶ ἦρα ὄνειδος ἐξ υἱῶν Ισραηλ.
Michael, that's non-canonical material, non-Hebrew canon, anyway.

So, whatever you think you are saying to me about Jude 9, and relating that to what I said, it doesn't compute. In my Bible, Jude 9 is a scripture verse, its part of the Holy Writ, wherever it "came from." LXX's "Psalm 151" is not.

Let me repeat the point I made. There is the claim that Paul takes from the LXX translation, and borrows the terms those translators (of the Hebrew) borrowed, and uses them as TECHNICAL TERMS in Eph/Col when he enjoins the Christian use of "Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs." The argument goes: these verses use these three terms, but only refer to "different sorts of musical forms found in the Psalter." This argument rests on the apriori that Paul's use of these terms is a self-conscious borrowing of the language of a translation to make a theological point.

At this point, the argument is viciously circular. It serves as a helpful explanation of the Eph/Col passages if one already holds to EP. If one does not hold to EP, the plausibility of this explanation for Eph/Col falls dramatically. Why should anyone begin their comprehension of the meaning of a word by starting with the unproven assumption that the word is used TECHNICALLY? In all the vast Greek literature, where are the undisputed references to this triplet, or even the individual terms, being used specifically to describe a subclass of the Psalter contents? That's where the burden of proof lies.

But the other part of my argument has to do with the questionable wisdom of relying on the LXX, being a translation, as though it provided us with authoritative interpretive guidance. Why should we grant it unique hermeneutical status? And if we do, then shouldn't we do that across the board? Because it seems like special pleading to employ the LXX as a trump over standard, lexically defined usage when it suits one's argument, but when one points out that the LXX Psalter as it stands contains "uninspired hymnody," suddenly the LXX isn't that good as a template for a "modern" Psalter-hymnal.

Well, I say it has the same, limited usefulness for guidance across the board. I don't claim too much for it when it comes to defining terms--it fits in with the rest of the literature of the day, granting it the advantages of being specifically religious in nature. Neither do I think much of the apocryphal "Psalm 151." However, I am not able to judge also of whether this composition was ever sung in church or synagogue or not. ALL I KNOW IS THAT IT IS PRESENT IN THE LXX BIBLE TRANSLATION.

Peace, Out.
 

seajayrice

Puritan Board Sophomore
Did Prof. Murray believe in OT exclusive psalmody?

Brothers,

The case for EP doesn't begin or end with the Eph. or Col. passages. In fact, it could be argued (even as prof. John Murray has) that these passages aren't even relevant to the question of what we're to sing in corporate worship.

But if the argument is going to continue here, a couple points are worth considering.

As we look to the NT, we need to keep something in mind. The OT commands God’s people to sing the inspired Psalms exclusively. When we turn to the NT, we need to keep our eyes open to see if there is anything that would cause us to believe that the pattern set forth in the OT has been overturned or replaced. There is no solid proof that anything but the Psalms were sung in the worship of the NT Church.

Though the following passages don't pertain to corporate worship, they do provide us with a sense as to what God's people were used to singing. For example, in James 5:13 we read, “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.” There’s no doubt that James had the inspired Psalms in mind here.

There are various examples in the Book of Acts that show us the disciples sang the Psalms. Consider just one example from Acts 4. This comes just after hearing the news that Peter and John had been arrested and released.

Acts 4:24-26 24 So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: "Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25 "who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: 'Why did the nations rage, And the people plot vain things? 26 The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against the LORD and against His Christ.'

In this passage, we’re given a snapshot of the kinds of songs that the disciples sung. In this single passage, we're told that they sang from Psalm 146 and Psalm 2. They sang these songs because they were the songs they were used to singing in worship.

WRT the Eph and Col passages, we should note that the verses speak of “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” Well, the word “spiritual” means inspired by the Holy Spirit. Dr. B.B. Warfield confirmed this with the following statement.

Of the 25 instances in which the word [spiritual] occurs in the NT, in no single case does it sink even as low in its reference as the human spirit; and in 24 of them it is derived from “spirit”, the Holy Ghost. In this sense of belonging to, or determined by, the Holy Spirit, the NT usage is uniform. … The appropriate translation for it in each case is “Spirit-given,” or “Spirit-led”, or “Spirit-determined”.

"Spiritual," then, refers to those songs that were written by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, man-made/uninspired hymns/songs do not qualify.

The other thing to point out is that the Ephesians passage commands us to be filled with the Spirit and the passage from Colossians commands us to let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly. Both of these passages are telling God’s people to be filled with God’s Word. The Ephesians passage tells us to be filled with the Spirit and it then tells us how to do it. When we sing to one another from the Psalter in worship we are being filled with the Spirit. According to the passage from Colossians, having the Word of Christ dwell in us richly is also done by singing to one another from the Psalter. You see, the Word of Christ is the Word of God and the Psalter is part of God’s Word.

Another thing to note as we consider what the NT has to teach us with regard to song in worship is what is found in Matt. 26:30. In that verse, we have the only explicit record in Scripture of Jesus singing. After introducing and partaking of the first Lord’s Supper, we read that “when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”

There is no question what is meant by the term “hymn” there. Scholars agree that this word “hymn” refers to what is called the Great Hallel. The Great Hallel was what was traditionally sung during the Passover back then. It refers to Psalms 113-118 from the Psalter. So, the only record we have of Jesus singing is of Him singing the Psalms.
Regarding Prof. Murray's views, is this assertion correct (from the OPC Q&A website)?:

"I might say that, in a sense, John Murray (with whom I experienced a real closeness during my seminary years and afterward) in private conversations with me disagreed with the Covenanter position that only the inspired psalms (of the book of Psalms) were proper for public worship. There are New Testament psalms as well, such as those in the nativity account in Luke 1 & 2 as well as such as are found in Revelation 4 & 5 and subsequent chapters. He felt that they were equally acceptable and had the advantage of inspired song from the New Covenant perspective."
 

alhembd

Puritan Board Freshman
The question then becomes is Paul quoting the Septuagint at this point?
I don't think it is held that Paul is quoting the Septuagint, but that the use of the word "hymn" in the Septuagint is a more reliable indicator of what the word meant to Paul and his audience than the modern definition of the English term.
We do need to keep in mind that the Hebrew word for "hymns" is תהלים, and that's what the Book of Psalms are called in Hebrew. "Psalms" is the Septuagint name of the book. "Hymns" is what the book is called in Hebrew.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top